If there was ever a year I was ready to turn the page on, it was 2020. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. COVID-19 knocked us off our feet early on, and we’re still in the grip of it. Within weeks or even days, we had to adapt and rethink the way we do just about everything, from greeting each other to studying to working to celebrating our faith.
As humans tend to do, we got the hang of all that. What was harder to deal with were the many losses – of our loved ones, our communities, our routines, our comforts. Amazingly, we found ways to gather, shop, share stories, worship together and support each other as best we could.
We all have our stories about 2020. Not all of them are unhappy ones, thankfully. We’ll be unpacking them for years. But for now, for this moment, on January 1, 2021, we pause. We take a breath. We stand on the cusp of a brand-new year before life speeds up again. A friend of mine opens her front door at midnight leading into January 1 – a way of actively welcoming in the new year and meeting it face to face. I like that homey tradition marking this somewhat arbitrary starting point that shapes our lives in countless ways.
In the Church year, this day is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God – and our mother. The gospel for the day tells of the shepherds going “with haste” to Bethlehem. But their story doesn’t end there. Afterwards, they return to where they came from, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). It’s such a familiar and beloved story, but it’s so much more. It’s a model we can follow. Like Mary did, we can say “yes” to bringing God into the world without knowing how or why. Like the shepherds, we can seek out Christ, even (or especially) when that means leaving the familiar – and then glorify and praise God for all we have heard and seen.
If all that weren’t enough, today the Church also celebrates the World Day of Peace. This year’s message from Pope Francis reflects our current reality as it promotes “a culture of care as a path to peace.” He reminds us that “there can be no peace without a culture of care.” We often feel powerless about how we as individuals can change the world for the better, but Francis points to something concrete we can all do, wherever we may be: care.
So, today is quite a day. A new year lies before us. What will it hold? What joys, what sorrows? We cannot know – all we can do is move forward in faith, knowing that God is with us. Today’s readings overflow with blessings. I think we could all use them – not just today, but every day:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us …
May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.
Peace be with you. Peace be with the entire world. Amen!
Anne Louise Mahoney, Managing Editor, Novalis